How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer of the pleural membrane. There is a thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs of the human body. This pleural membrane layer is called Mesothelium. In the case of Mesothelioma, cancer tissues grow on the Mesothelium of the lungs and chest wall. There are other cases of Mesothelioma. But the number of those cases is negligible. In those cases, Mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen and the sac surrounding the heart. The pleural membrane surrounding the testis may develop Mesothelioma too. But in most cases, this type of cancer affects the pleural membrane of the lungs. We will understand how mesothelioma diagnosis works.

According to medical science, Mesothelioma is a type of cancer arising because of Asbestos. This cancer has a long latency period. That is why it becomes incurable. After the asbestos exposure, it might take up to 40 years to show some symptoms. 

How to diagnose Mesothelioma?

 The symptoms of Mesothelioma are the same as those likely to be caused by other common problems. Most people ignore them for minor ailments. But Mesothelioma starts to develop major symptoms for a few months before they are diagnosed.

Doctors use a variety of tests to diagnose this cancer. There are several methods to diagnose Mesothelioma. The most common methods are Imaging Scans, Biopsies, and Blood Tests.

Imaging Scans – A Integral Part of the Process of Mesothelioma Diagnosis

These are the most common diagnostic tests for Mesothelioma. There are different types of imaging scans. Let’s have a look one by one.

  • An x-ray can reveal fluid build-up in the lungs. It is the first diagnostic test if the doctor believes there are some symptoms of Mesothelioma. If the x-ray indicates an abnormal mass, growth, or fluid, the doctor will most likely suggest further tests for a clearer picture of the affected area.
CT Scans
  • Doctors usually recommend a Computed Tomography (CT) scan after going through the x-ray report. In most cases, CT scans are the follow-ups to x-rays. However, there are some drawbacks. CT scans cannot differentiate between benign asbestos disease and malignant Mesothelioma.
MRI Scans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans are much more accurate than CT scans. They can assess the enlargement of the lymph nodes between the two lungs. They can identify tumors as opposed to normal structures. Before aggressive treatment, doctors suggest this type of scan to diagnose Mesothelioma.
PET Scans
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is now becoming a very important part of the diagnosis of mesothelioma. These scans are very expensive comparing to the other types of imaging. Doctors use this method to determine the stage of Mesothelioma.
  • In this imaging, doctors use sound waves to determine how well the heart is functioning. The diagnosis of pericardial Mesothelioma is done through this method. This Mesothelioma develops around the pleural membrane of the heart. In cases of pericardial Mesothelioma, the heart works harder and beats irregularly. This test can pick up on these symptoms, and help diagnose this Mesothelioma.


The pathologists collect samples of tissues from the tumor or fluid buildup. This method to diagnose cancer is called a biopsy. It could be surgical or non-surgical.

Surgical Biopsy
  • There are five types of Surgical Biopsy. The first one is (a) Thoracoscopy. In this method, surgeons make small incisions in the patient’s chest. Through those incisions, the surgeon puts a camera and a device to retrieve a sample tissue from the affected area. The next one is (b) Thoracotomy. It is more accurate than a Thoracoscopy for its invasive nature. Surgeons generally make a large incision in the chest. They take direct samples from the cavity. It doesn’t require a camera. The other common method is (c) Mediastinoscopy. In this method, surgeons use a lighted camera on the head of a small, thin tube to examine the affected area between the lungs. Doctors use this method if an imaging test indicates the existence of an abnormal mass in the suspected area. 
  • The first three methods are usually used in cases of Mesothelioma in the lungs. But in cases of abdominal Mesothelioma, the most common biopsy is (d) Laparotomy. After giving patients general anesthesia, surgeons make holes in the abdomen. They collect direct samples of the abnormal growths from the abdominal cavity for further testing. There is another method to diagnose abdominal Mesothelioma. It is (e) Laparoscopy. It is less invasive than laparotomy. Surgeons use cameras to examine the abdominal cavity. They collect tissue samples through incisions. It requires a lesser amount of recovery time than laparotomy.
Non-Surgical Biopsy
  • In a non-surgical biopsy, the specialist inserts a hollow needle into the suspected area. They use an ultrasound or CT scan, to guide the needle. It collects a sample of the fluid or tissue from the affected area. Then a pathologist examines those samples.

Blood Test

There are four blood tests to detect Mesothelioma. Blood tests play an important role in the Mesothelioma diagnosis.


  • It is the first serum-based biomarker sensitive for Mesothelioma. This blood test is very effective in Mesothelioma diagnosis. This blood test can measure the amount of Soluble Mesothelin-Related Peptides (SMRP) in the blood. This SMRP is a biomarker that is released into the bloodstream by cancerous Mesothelioma tissues. Even this blood test can early diagnose Mesothelioma. SMRP can be increased long before a diagnosis of Mesothelioma is made. By measuring the amount of SMRP in the bloodstream, the MESOMARK can help doctors monitor patients with the risk of developing Mesothelioma. Sometimes doctors use MESOMARK to determine how well a patient responds to treatment.


  • This is a very modern method to diagnose Mesothelioma. Specialists believe it has excellent diagnostic accuracy. Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamer (SOMAmer) proteomic test measures 13 biomarkers from blood to detect Mesothelioma in an early stage.

Fibulin-3 Test

  • This blood test is a new biomarker for malignant Mesothelioma. Doctors believe that testing this biomarker could assist in the early detection of this type of Mesothelioma. Even research says that the Fibulin-3 Test is also very effective in detecting the progression of cancer.

Human MPF Elisa Kit

  • This blood test measures the Megakaryocyte Potentiating Factor (MPF). It is a protein encoded in the Mesothelin (MSLN) gene. It is also known as Human Maturation Promoting Factor (MPF). Doctors perform this test using several kits.

Mesothelioma research, treatment, and diagnostic methods are always evolving. Now there is an endless number of tests and treatment options that are currently in varying stages of development. As a result, several other biomarker tests are either on the horizon, in clinical trials, or already in usage. The tests below may also be useful in helping detect many different types of cancer or monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

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